UPDATED: Turns Out, I Don’t Like Getting Shot At

Turns out, I don’t like getting shot at.

I mean, you think you don’t like getting shot at. You assume you don’t like getting shot at. But how do you know you don’t like getting shot at until, well, you’re shot at?

Shot at.

As in shot at, shot at.

By a man with a gun.

While you’re in a crowd with your kids.

Friends, now I can be sure. My suppositions were sound. I DO NOT LIKE GETTING SHOT AT.

I do not like getting shot at SO MUCH that I don’t even care I’m ending my sentences with a preposition. As my kids would’ve said when they were little, that is a lot of much, Mom. That is a LOT OF MUCH of not liking getting shot at.

And you know what I like even less than being shot at? My kids being shot at; that’s what.

I like my kids and my friends’ kids and strangers’ kids being shot at WAY LESS than I enjoy being shot at. Which is really saying something considering how little I like getting shot at.

We went to a women’s high school soccer game last night in our small hometown.

11947432_10153554570082769_4677962229802525788_nIt was the first game of the season on a moody weather day, and I arrived a few minutes early as a rainbow fell on the field filled with kids I’ve known their whole lives. We came to watch them and to cheer them as the rain clouds made dramatic entrances and exits, chased sporadically by molten rays of a setting sun.

It’s been a busy week following months of busy weeks — the go, go, GO of summer on all fronts — and it felt good to rest for a bit with friends and family while the cold from the aluminum stands seeped through our clothes and we snuggled into our blankets. It felt good to rest and to beckon fall closer. To chat and banter. To stand for the national anthem. To clap politely for the other team and cheer wildly for our girls as they took to the field in their school colors and their clashing neon shoes.

I did what I usually do at games like these, keeping a loose eye on the field, editing photos on my phone, and denying my kids’ incessant requests for food from the snack bar. “Popcorn only,” I said a thousand thousand times to cries of but WHY and pllleeeEEEEeese? And I was in the middle of threatening to revoke future game attendance privileges unless the begging ceased and desisted when the players all stopped, whipped their heads to look at… something… and then, at the order of the officials, ran off the field.

The crowd rose too, en masse, and began exiting the stands. Lightning, I thought. It has to be lightning. Because what else would the popping sound be? And of course they’d get the players off the field and the crowd out of the metal stands in a lightening storm. The weather was bizarre, after all, and just because I didn’t see the flash of lightening didn’t mean it wasn’t there.

I kept my littles beside me, urging them to hurry and follow directions as we made our way to safety from the storm.

Just a different kind of storm than I thought, because, as we crowded inside the high school, we kept hearing whispers of gun. “Nope,” I said, “it was lightning” because I couldn’t wrap my head around gunshots. It simply didn’t compute. More and more, though, the whispers became reality. We’d fled a man shooting at us, and we were taking refuge together.

Outside, police from multiple jurisdictions converged on the scene. My teenage daughter, who’d left the game briefly to get coffee, returned and was herded into the building at the last second by police “holding those big guns, Mom; the ones you see in the movies” as we were led to a more secure location and put into lockdown.

It was surreal.

I mean, lockdown as a precaution, sure. I get that. And lockdown for practice, yes. But lockdown for real? Sort of… unbelievable.

I began texting updates to the mamas and dads of the teens who were there without their parents so they’d know we were safe and calm and well cared for.

And we were.

We were.

We were safe and calm and well cared for because men and women in uniform ran toward the danger instead of away from it. Ran toward the danger immediately. Ran toward the danger on our behalf. Ran toward the danger in our stead. And I sat in our lockdown room humbled and grateful and less scared for knowing they were there. Humbled and grateful to know they live this out every day of their lives and that this thing which is an anomaly for me and mine — shots fired — is, for them, an ongoing possibility. An ongoing reality.

I went to bed last night with my youngest babies, the three of us snuggled close, safe and warm, with stacks of pillows and blankets and soft sighs and slow breaths, gangly 8-year-old limbs whacking me periodically in the face or the bladder. Greg asked if we were letting them stay in bed with us for the night, and I said, “Yes. New family rule: if you get shot at, you get to sleep with mommy all night long.” Which may make it awkward should they go into military or police service someday, but I’m sure the brass will understand why I must go with them to Afghanistan or inner city Los Angeles and why they’re required to provide for us a family bed once I get there; I’ll just explain we have a long-standing family rule. They’ll get it. I’m sure of it.

I let my oldest go back out last night, too, in a fit of stunning bravery on my part, but I also insisted she stay in our neighborhood because that’s as far as my heart could let her venture even though the danger was over. “Why?” she texted. “Why just our neighborhood?” And I texted back, “I have literally no good reason. I just want you where I know you’re safe for a night.”

Tomorrow, my littles will be back in their own beds and my high school senior will have a wider area to roam again. Tomorrow, I’ll be even braver than I am today. Tomorrow, I’ll add more soccer games to my calendar, and football games in the same stands. Tomorrow, I’ll be one step further than I am from this today.

Today, though, I’m just going to breathe and listen to my kids breathe and be grateful for the gift breath is.

Today, I’m going to be grateful for those who put themselves in harm’s way and those who work for peace in our communities.

Today, I’m going to remember that there are families in Syria and around the world who live in uncertainty and fear for their lives not just for a moment at a soccer game, but every minute of every day.

Today, I’m going to lift my heart and my fears and my gratitude to God because I don’t know what else to do.

And today, I’m going to invite you to join me.

With love,

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UPDATE: Thank you for all your heartfelt emails, Facebook comments and comments here on the blog. I appreciate you and your words more that I can express.

The man fired the gun was arrested the same night as the incident. He has since been released and is pending trial on several counts, some felonies, some misdemeanors. It appears he was drunk and was shooting at a tree.

While I know many of our community feel outraged, and rightfully so, I just feel sad for him and for all of us. I know what it is to fuck things up, friends — royally — and although I’ve never endangered people physically like he did two nights ago, I’ve certainly done my share of emotional damage to those I desperately love, and so I feel I share intimately in the destruction of others through my own foolishness even though I sometimes intended no harm.

We are, all of us, made from light and from darkness, the capacity to do great good and great harm intermingled. We are, all of us, made in the image of God — divine to the marrow of our bones — and also oh so very human with all its deep perfection and fallability. We are, all of us, grand fuck-ups and wholly worthy of constant, abiding love.

My children and I — and friends and family and strangers — were wronged the other night. And yet I find myself only able to offer gratitude that we are physically unharmed and compassion and sorrow for the man who fucked this up. The law can be in charge of the consequences; I will lay that down and believe for him, like I believe for all of us, that we are redeemable.

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
27 comments
  1. Amazing thoughts at the end there. What a grand display of mercy and forgiveness. You’re hilarious, and I love reading your funny posts, but those final thoughts are the reason I keep coming back and am grateful to have found your blog in the first place. So glad you’re all safe.

  2. “We are, all of us, grand fuck-ups and wholly worthy of constant, abiding love.” Best. Line. EVER! Thanks for your compassionate heart, Beth. It helps soften the hardening, stony edges of my own jaded heart in ways you can’t even know!

  3. So relieved everyone safe. I second the if you get shot at you can sleep with mom all night rule. I Think about the same things every night as I tuck my son in. How lucky I am to have a safe home and wish safety for the night for the other families stuck in impossible circumstances. That they make it through the night in peace.

  4. Beth, I will send prayers of thanks to God for the safety of you and all those with you. Thank you for sharing it so poignantly with us.

  5. I think we have to admit that this isn’t a small town anymore. It’s a small city. A small city in a country that likes its guns–WAY too much.

    1. I’m not ready to admit that, yet. 🙂 I can still see llamas from my house.

      1. We’re a small rural city.

  6. I am so sorry. I can’t imagine. I am so glad everyone is ok.

  7. Beth. What a scary experience. I’m SO glad everyone is OK, and thank you for acknowledging the efforts of those of us who run TOWARD the gunfire…

  8. Thanking God with you that you are all safe! I too know from experience that I do not like getting shot at. I do not like getting shot at while sitting in a car surrounded by gunman, in front of my house. Or watching my oldest sons father take the bullets, 7 of them. He survived.

    So I know the feeling of having a general feeling of safety ripped away. I know the pull of fear reminding me this happened, and telling me it could happen again. And then also knowing that although it happened, we survived, we were ok in the end. And then thinking, like you said, that this is the ongoing reality of many people. And being thankful that I am not one of them, while my heart breaks for their reality.

    Sending love…..

    1. Oh my gosh, Diana! I’m so glad you all survived. How horrifying. I so get this, “being thankful that I am not one of them, while my heart breaks for their reality.”

  9. Breathe, just breathe. A good reminder for me as I am here in a far flung corner of the world while tonight my babies will learn that their beloved teacher lost the will to breathe this week. And I can’t be there to snuggle them and even though their daddy will be there it’s killing me a little bit inside. So pray for us at 8pm tonight if you will.

    1. Praying for you and your kids, Krista.

  10. It is hard for us Europeans to understand the whole gun thing in the States. But no judging today, just glad you are all safe. You don’t say if the gunman was apprehended – I hope so.

    1. Can I come live with you in Europe? I don’t get the gun thing here…

    2. I’ve updated the post now, Jennifer. The gunman was apprehended. I’m with you — I don’t understand the whole gun thing either. There are responsible ways to own guns and regulate their use without changing our 2nd amendment rights. We are failing here in the States.

  11. So glad you are safe.

    It must be the week for crazy lockdowns – google “Millis Massachusetts Police Shot At” and you’ll see how the first day of school was for the littles in our neighborhood (and all the craziness that is going along with it). Unfortunately it seems to be the times that we live in. And I completely agree with you; I feel safer knowing that the police run toward the danger everyday.

    And really, I’m sure any future military employers will completely understand the need for a family bed. 😉

    1. Ugh. So sorry, Jessica. Sending love.

  12. Bad dreams. I have bad dreams about this. Glad you were all ok

  13. Oh my goodness…. I’m so glad you are safe. I too, and completely certain with complete unshakable certainty that I do not like getting shot at.

  14. Amen! Glad you and the Littles are all safe.

    1. Me, too, Katie. Thanks.

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